Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)

Constructivo en cinco tonos

Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Constructivo en cinco tonos
signed and dated 'JTG 43' (lower left)
oil on board laid down on masonite
16½ x 17¾ in. (42 x 45 cm.)
Painted in 1943.
Estate of the Artist.
Augusto Torres, No. 336.
Galerie Melki, Basel.
Rose Fried Gallery, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 19 January 1979, lot 70 (illustrated). Private collection, Washington D.C.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 29 May 1997, lot 101 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
G. Fonseca, 'Torres-García's Symbols within Squares' in Art News, March 1960, p. 28 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Joaquín Torres-García 1874-1949: 15th Memorial Exhibition, New York, Rose Fried Gallery, 6 January - 13 February 1964 (illustrated).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Joaquín Torres-García, 5 December 1960- 6 January 1961, no. 30.
New York, Rose Fried Gallery, Joaquín Torres-García 1874-1949: 15th Memorial Exhibition, 6 January - 13 February 1964.
Washington D.C., Museum of Modern Art in Latin America, Organization of American States, Different Voices: Artists from Uruguay in Washington Collections, 4 November - 3 December 1988, no. 32.

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Mrs. Cecilia de Torres for her assistance in confirming the authenticity of this work; to be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the artist under archive number P1943.15.

Torres-García returned to Montevideo in 1934, over forty years after he had left the city of his birth and following a peripatetic path strung between Barcelona, Paris and New York. He worked tirelessly to catalyze the development of modern art throughout Latin America, opening a school (El Taller Torres-García) in 1944 and promoting a new, pan-American visual-arts tradition drawn from the recuperation of the pre-Hispanic past. The paintings from the final Montevidean period represent the culmination of Torres-García's career, in which he integrated the formal precepts of the modernist grid and the symbolic iconography of the ancient Americas.

Constructivo en cinco tonos harks back to Torres-García's encounter with Neo-Plasticism and his involvement with the Parisian abstractionists associated with the Cercle et Carré group. Like Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, Torres-García defined his mature pictorial language around the grid, whose linear and spatial relationships posited the oppositional relationships of the cosmos-- male and female, material and spiritual, active and passive--in dynamic and creative equilibrium. Here, the use of the primary colors, along with white and black, and the (mostly) straight lines suggest both the enduring influence of Neo-Plasticism and Torres-García's innovations within its conceptual parameters. The rigorous structure of the grid is here broken down, each color block inscribed with schematic and suggestively pictographic forms; these juxtaposed grids-within-the-grid form a dynamic artistic environment, populated with what Torres-García believed to be the symbols of a universal and timeless art. The motifs intimate a rich array of references, ranging from the human figure to classic Inca masonry, and collectively project a vibrant composite image of cosmic order, unity and harmony.

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.

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